Published on :-The Pioneer
Date: November 13, 2005
Instead of advising India on caste system, the US would do better to address its own social problems, says Tarun Vijay
In November, the US Congress will discuss a Bill on Indian Dalits that deals with their treatment. Congressman Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House International Relations Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Operations, held previous discussions on the topic in October this year.
Mr Smith convened the hearing titled 'India's Unfinished Agenda - Equality and Justice for Victims of Caste System', during which, he said, "The Dalits and tribal peoples are treated as virtual non-humans, and suffer pervasive discrimination and violation of their human rights."
In his discussion, Mr Smith alleged that Dalit girls are becoming temple prostitutes and tens of thousands of tribal women have been forced into situations of economic and sexual exploitation. He further said that despite constitutional safeguards, the rights of indigenous groups in the eastern parts of the country are often ignored and mob violence such as lynching, arson and police atrocities against tribal persons are all too common.
Mr Smith, bringing out the 'real' issue, said, "Over the years, many Dalits and tribal groups have converted from Hinduism to other faiths (read Christianity). However, such converts often lose benefits conferred by the Government's affirmative action programmes because these, according to the Constitution, are reserved only for those having Scheduled Caste status. Converts to Christianity and Christian missionaries are particularly targeted, as violence against Christians often goes unpunished."
Any person blind to Indian interests would find such blatant lies offensive. Why take refuge in lies and falsehood in a country where god speaks directly to its President? And why are such concerns always limited to Christians? Is the US the sole protector of Christian rights, globally? Are Indian Christians comfortable when another country interferes in their matters? Why are they silent? Do they feel only US can help them and not the Indian Constitution or people? Do they know that Indian Dalits are lured into Christianity by announcements preaching that only Hinduism has caste based discrimination; that once you become Christian, you become equal in the eyes of all?
Missionaries fail to mention, however, that even after conversion, Dalit Christians have to go to separate churches and have designated separate cemeteries, too. The same happens to the Dalits when they turn to Islam but are still told to demand reservation! An Dalit receives Government reservation by virtue of being a Hindu to rectify the injustices faced due to caste-based discrimination. The moment he leaves Hinduism and is baptised or Islamised, the raison d'etre for benefits automatically ceases to exist.
Hungry for battle, US President Bush has now unleashed a war on Hindus through sanctioning billions of dollars for proselytising campaigns. The US Congress's debates about Indian Dalits provide Christian missionaries with a 'cover' to convert weaker sections of Hindus in the same way that Pakistanis provide cover to the jihadi infiltrators along the LoC.
This process has two steps: First, creating an atmosphere of baseless allegations and stating Christians alone are victims, thus making Indians defensive. Second, asking for safeguards from these allegations from the proselytisers and unleashing a billion dollar campaign to take advantage of a disjointed Hindu society.
It is sad to see a complete absence of protest from the Government of India that claims to represent all sections of the Indian society and, above all, national honour. Still worse, Dalit movements have not been able to produce nationalist leaders like BR Ambedkar, who would stand up against blatant US interference in our internal matters. Most of the present lot thrives on the support of foreign NGOs and US groups which use them for their nefarious designs. They forget that the eradication of untouchability and caste-based discrimination has been the single most important issue for all Hindu social reformers and political leaders, across party lines. From Guru Gobind Singh to Sahuji Maharaj to Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar, Hedgewar, and the present political groups, all are unanimous regarding this. But, due to vote-bank politics, caste still plays a major role in hampering progress needed to achieve an egalitarian and casteless society. Though it's a serious problem, Indians are addressing it with full support from the Constitution and their socio-religious and political groups.
Americans should set their own house in order before interfering in the affairs of other sovereign countries. According to Human Rights Watch, US figures reveal the continuing, extraordinary magnitude of minority incarceration and the stark disparity in their rates of incarceration compared to those of whites. Out of a total population of 1,976,019 incarcerated in adult facilities, 1,239,946 or 63 per cent are black or Latino, though these two groups constitute only 25 per cent of the national population. Instead of giving baseless commentary on the caste situation in India, the US Congress would do better to address social problems in America.